Introduction: Replacement Ear-tips for in Ear Headphones

A few years ago, I lost the ear-pieces for a pair of Shure in-ear headphones.  I tried a few jury-rig replacement solutions without any satisfactory results.  More recently, I bought some Apple in-ear headphones.  Of course, I lost the ear-pieces for those also.  Apple does not sell the replacement ear-tips either in store or online.  I was able to find advice from others in the same predicament suggesting ones from other companies that would fit.  Unfortunately, all the suggested replacements cost more money than I wanted to pay.

I decided to see if I could make my own using cheap earplugs.  Here is what I ended up with.  They have better noise isolation than either the Shures or the Apple in-ear headphones.  They sound fantastic.  This project turned out far better than I had expected.

The second pic shows what I started with and my dremel.  The third pic is a close up of the two dremel bits I used.

Step 1: Preparing the Earpiece

a. I pulled out the blue cord.  Maybe I could have just cut it off, but it's simple enough to pull it out and then just not have to deal with it anymore.
b. I sized up the headphones and the earplug so I'd know about how deep they'd go in.  The Shure phones are a little bigger around and a little longer than the Apple phones.  Also, I wasn't planning to have the headphones go all the way through the rubber to the end - I just wanted them inserted into it.
c. I folded up the bottom cup of the ear-plugs and cut them off about where I thought I needed it.  Two lessons to learn from my imperfection: one, scissors would probably make a cleaner cut than the wire cutters I used, and two, next time I would leave much more rubber on than my final product demands because the Dremel really ripped up the edges of the bottom when I was going through it.  Next time, I will leave some extra rubber on and then cut it off after I'm all done.
d. Here's what they look like after cutting.
(Yes, I know I have more than 4 pictures - my letters and pictures will not have a 1:1 ratio.)

Step 2: Cutting the Holes

I ended up putting the Dremel in the Vise to make it easier to take pictures, not because it was needed.  Still, I think it ended up helping.  It's not necessary, but if you have a bench vise handy, you might want to try it and see if it makes things easier.

Important: The Dremel was set on the slowest speed possible.  I wish I could have slowed it down a tiny bit more...

Also, the bits I used (after trial and error taught me which ones not to use...) were a skinny pointed "diamond" grinder bit and a skinny flat ended "diamond" grinder bit.  Why the quotes on diamond?  Well, these were pretty cheap generic bits that came with a generic rotary tool I bought a long time ago.  (You can see the generic tool in the top right of the pic.)  I doubt they have any diamond on them at all.

On to the steps.  (These are the actual steps I used on the second one.  The second one took about a minute and used 2 bits.  The first one took almost 10 minutes and around 6 bits because I was still trying to figure out what worked.)

a. I started with the pointed grinder bit and got the hole started as close to center as I could.  It was a little off, but that doesn't matter because the next step is very forgiving, especially if you keep the speed of the Dremel as low as possible.
b. Once I had the hole cut out a little, I switched to the flat top bit.  I went a little slow and just pushed it through.  When I got close to the end, I just set my fingertip on the end of the ear plug and pushed it onto the grinder bit.  (No picture of that bit - sorry.)  As the bit was moving so slowly and isn't very coarse, there was no pain, no risk, no blood, no trips to the emergency room, etcetera.  If you do it this way, and it's probably the easiest way, PLEASE make sure to have the speed set as low as it can go.
c. After I was done, there was a little tiny circular flap of yellow rubber that was still attached on one side.  I just cut that off with my wire cutters.  Unfortunatly, I didn't get a pic of the step.

Step 3:

They ended up not fitting onto the Shure headphones, but that's ok as the iPhone ones were the ones I was most interested in because of the iPod controls and the microphone for making phone calls.

I have a bigger bit that I will try to ream out some more rubber with and see if I can get them on the Shures.  If it works out, I'll upload more pictures.

How do they work?  Fantastic.  Far better then I expected.

Sound quality as compared to stock: A+
Noise isolation as compared to stock: A+ (Absolutely superior to the ones apple includes.)
Fit as compared to stock: A+    These stay in your ears great and they are very comfortable.

I had no idea how this was going to turn out when I started, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the results.

Comments

author
patthesoundguy (author)2010-10-30

The replacements for shure IEMs that these look like are no longer available. I came up with this idea too, It works very well and costs almost nothing. All of my earbuds now have these on them cell phone etec. Love it!

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eoin1098 (author)2012-12-05

i lost my in-ear buds for my earplugs. i don't really understand how you guys made these replacement ear-buds

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VadimS (author)2010-10-14

Sweet, I have a pair of Sennheisers, that will soon need a set.
The rubber comes of easily.

author
mikedoth (author)2010-10-13

Ear plugs should provide a pretty decent tight fit and I can only imagine the sound quality would be better, however getting them in and out would be a pain with the plugs I have.

author
DreamTheEndless (author)mikedoth2010-10-13

I've had no problems with these ones. They go in easy, stay put without falling out, and yet pull out without any problems when I pull them out.

Maybe the ones I have are a softer rubber then the ones you are using? I've had difficulty with foam type plugs before, but not with flange type plugs like this. Perhaps you have ones that are too big?